May 20th 2019.
Next club meeting Monday 13th May 2019.
Subject - AD 69 (The Romans) By Richard Noble
Monday 3rd June 2019.
· Annual General Meeting and Display Competition
Meetings are held at the Abbey Baptist Church, Abbey Square, commencing at 7.00 p.m.
This was a talk by Peter Preston-Morley entitled Edward Stanley Robinson - Knighted for Services to Numismatics. He remains the only person knighted specifically for services to Numismatics. Stanley Robinson was a member of the BNS from 1946 and the RNS from 1911. He was born in 1887, the sixth of seven children, to a well established Gloucestershire family whose business was paper and packaging. One of his ancestors had visited the United States in 1873 acquiring the rights to a new machine which enabled packaging to have the shopkeeper’s name printed on it, this proved a huge success and cemented the family’s fortunes. He was brought up and educated in Bristol, where he received what his youngest daughter termed ‘gold reports’ and he was clearly academically minded. Unfortunately he had a stammer and was sent to live with and receive tuition from speech therapist and coin dealer Edward John Seltman when he was 10 years old. He would have seen many, predominantly Greek coins, while there. His three elder brothers had all gone to Clifton College and Stanley followed them.
Stanley won a scholarship to Oxford Christchurch in 1906 which steered him away from the family business and he ended up as an academic under the tutelage of Robert Hamilton Douglas with whom he gained a first class degree. In doing so he made his first contribution to numismatics winning the Barclay Head Prize and came into contact with Percy Gardener, who was the first to give lectures on numismatics as part of Archaeology at Oxford. It was on a trip to Athens in 1910 that Stanley finally turned away from archaeology and firmly moved in the direction of numismatics. A little later in 1912 Robinson was appointed assistant keeper in the department of coins and medals at the British Museum, which was under the charge of George Hill also a student of Gardener. The two formed a strong partnership. All of this was interrupted by the 1st World War, where Robinson served in France, being invalided out in 1916 with a leg wound.
It was whilst undergoing convalescence in England that Robinson met his future wife, who had helped to nurse him back to health, though he would always have a limp. They had two boys and four girls. He returned to the BM in1919 and took part in the writing of the catalogue of Greek coins. This was a catalogue that was meant to map the whole Greek area and was being completed country by country and Robinson began with North Africa at Cyrenaica. Unlike previous parts of the catalogue Robinson chose to include material that was not in the BM collection. He also included a commentary on the coinage to go along with the simple catalogue entries, placing the coins in their part of the history of the area.
During this time (the twenties) Robinson and his young family were still living in London at Great Russell St. and he began to get treatment for his stammer from Lionel Lowe, famous for later having George VI as a patient. It was during the thirties that Robinson became established as the authority in the Numismatic World as to the identity and authenticity of Greek coins and gave advice to all the leading figures in numismatics in the first part of the twentieth century. He also knew all the principal collectors of the time including Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian, the then richest man in the World and helped him to form his collection. In the mid thirties Robinson visited Tunisia and Algeria for the next part of the BMC but his interest then turned to a different project which had him collaborating with Howard Mattingley who had done similar things for the Roman series as those Robinson was doing for the Greek. They produced a joint paper entitled “The date of the Roman Denarius” (1932) which provided a new understanding of the period.
At about this time Robinson conceived of his Sylloge Nummorum Græcorum. This contained photographs of coins from important collections together with a minimum of text to form a basis for students to work from. This format was improved on to give, in Robinson’s own words, “the maximum amount of information in the minimum of space” and is familiar to modern day numismatists. Robinson also became joint editor of the Numismatic Chronicle. Another change in direction came when he was appointed as Reader of Numismatics at Oxford University in 1938. This led him to discover that there were large gaps in the Ashmolean’s collection of Greek coins, many of which he filled with donations.
Robinson was involved in the decision to disperse the BM collection of coins and medals outside of London during the Second World War which turned out to be a good decision as the Medal room was destroyed by bombs. Robinson was living, with his family, ‘over the collection’ at Compton Wynyates, Stratford-on-Avon. This meant he was near enough to his students at Oxford yet still able to keep in touch with events at the BM. The lack of distractions from the BM though, meant he could return to his work on Libya, which he published in 1943. He continued publishing for another twenty years, though, since he only published when a work was totally finished and done, there were not as many papers as there might have been. He was appointed keeper of coins at the BM just three years before he retired in 1952. He had already left before the work he had done on rebuilding the old medal room was completed. His achievements at the BM were recognised by the award of a CBE in 1952 and the striking of a laudatory medal. He also served on the advisory panel for the design of the Queen’s new coinage.
Robinson was able to retire to the 18th Century country house known as Stepleton in the Hamlet of Iwerne Stepleton, having leased the house from a trustee of the BM. In retirement Robinson became a benefactor to both the BM and the Ashmolean. He remained a reader at Oxford till 1958 when he became an honorary curator of Greek coins at the Ashmolean. Robinson’s own collection of coins was eventually donated to Oxford. This was so that collections were readily available for students to use at either Oxford or London. Following the death of Gulbenkian, Robinson was involved with the cataloguing of the collection.
He was awarded a knighthood in 1972 at the age of 84 for ‘services to numismatics and the Ashmolean Museum’. He died back in Great Russell St. in 1976 and is buried in Stepleton. Peter then related how Robinson came to be a member of his own Wessex club, serving in various capacities. Perhaps his greatest contribution was the SNG, started in 1931 and of which over 120 volumes have now been published.
Thank you to Peter for a very well researched and presented talk.